Through my Eyes
By Ron Edwards
Booker T Hodges, current president of the Minneapolis branch of the NAACP, strongly urged in his December 1, 2010 column in this newspaper that the culture of corruption and corrupt leadership in Minneapolis must no longer be tolerated and excused.
Some suggested he had stepped over the line. Clearly, this is not the case. He has become another strong voice to expose the long-term consequences of self-appointed leaders who lead only for their own agendas of lining their pockets at community expense.
More and more, we see an acceleration of the disturbing pattern of businesses and institutions going out of business that once were identified as being the foundation of the African American community.
In the last week, it has been rumored that yet another institution that has long served this community will close its doors. Even though it was forced to merge 10 years ago with another organization, its legacy and historical importance is still in the thoughts of those who remember when it began in the 1960s.
Thus, I was saddened, although not necessarily surprised, when I heard that The City, Inc. was about to cease operations. Booker T Hodges is absolutely correct: Dangerous, irresponsible actions by “leaders” serving themselves over the community eventually cause tragic outcomes for our community.
A major issue surrounding a number of organizations and their leadership is the mismanagement not only of education, but also of hundreds of millions of dollars that were committed to the education of African Americans and others of color.
Some “leaders” have become careless, having maintained their stranglehold for so long that they not only think they can’t get caught, but they think others are as corrupt as they are. They pursue corrupt actions that qualify as felonies.
There was a saying in World Was II: “Loose lips sink ships.” In the first five days of 2011, we see that theme dusted off within the African American community with “leadership” initiating careless conversations.
For example, several community “leaders” recently approached several members of the board of the Minneapolis Public Schools and told them of the importance of maintaining “arrangements” that were in place with former members, thinking that those they talked to would be comfortable with being on the take. They assume everyone is or wants to be a party to plans of corruption and theft.
These “leaders” seem to believe their long-term arrangements with certain elected and appointed officials are their entitlement, regardless of whether those “arrangements” include payments over or under the table. This is dangerous for the health of our community and for the perceptions that go with it, especially with Black Minnesotans struggling under the economic hardships that have befallen many.
Such struggles to survive expose the dangerous implications of the lack of education that is the plight of many of our young people who have dropped out (our, as some would say, were pushed out) of our schools, and the plight of those left behind to get a poor, inferior education.
This elephant in the room won’t go away just because folks don’t want to discuss this corruption and theft, be they discussions by the presidents of organizations or journalists or bloggers who would discuss the future and the safety and health of our community and its institutions.
There are those who refuse to address the existence of information and documentation that show that the African American community has been seriously violated economically, politically and socially. As a result, we are losing businesses and institutions.
There are serious questions that must be addressed. Why not start with, “What are the circumstances surrounding what appears to be the failure and, thus, the closing of The City, Inc.?”
This is not something that happened overnight. There must be a full public discussion and disclosure, particularly as the failure has taken place at the expense of the education of the sons and daughters of the African Americans of our city.
Booker T Hodges and others have sounded the alert. This journalist has detected a fear seen in the attempt to discredit the messengers. We must move beyond that, and we must examine the message and the role of those who say they act in our community’s best interest.
We must also confront those who carry out acts that not only create dangerous circumstances and conditions, but that also undermine the future of our African American youth. We cannot do business as usual in 2011.
In a 1995 commencement address, Nellie Stone Johnson stated, “….visions [are] hollow unless you strive to realize a shared vision for the community in which we live.” Stay tuned.
Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.Bea conOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolis Story.com.